A former Vice President and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has tackled President Bola Tinubu over his position that nullifying the outcome of the presidential election that held on February 25, may lead to anarchy in the country.
Atiku, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, said he observed that President Tinubu, in the final written address he filed before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja, misunderstood the depth of issues that were raised against his election.
The PDP candidate, who placed reliance on Supreme Court decided case-law, maintained that the heavens would not fall, should the court nullify President Tinubu’s election.
According to him, “the fact that a presidential election has never been nullified by the Courts in Nigeria before now, is not a good reason not to do so now, as it is very just to do.”
In the process he filed before the court, Atiku, who came second in the presidential contest, stated: “At this stage, it is pertinent to observe from the outset that the 2nd Respondent’s Final Written Address, with respect, reflects a complete misconception and unfortunate misunderstanding of the case of the Petitioners, notwithstanding the magisterial arrogance, condescending cynicism and overbearing misanthropy with which he has sought to trivialise the Petitioners’ case, as will be shown hereunder.
“Furthermore, a subtle threat of apocalyptic catastrophe of national chaos and anarchy if a judgment is not given in a particular manner cannot deter a Court of law from doing justice.
‘The Court must do justice, rather ‘let the heavens fall’; but as courageously stated by the Supreme Court per Oguntade JSC, in the epic case of AMAECHI vs. INEC & ORS (2008) LPELR-446(SC) (Pp. 67-68 paras. D): ‘I must do justice even if the heavens fall. The truth of course is that when justice has been done, the heavens stay in place.’
“It is also pertinent to observe that the Final Written Address of the 2nd Respondent was filed in flagrant defiance of, and non-compliance with, the mandatory provisions of Paragraph 5(c) and (d) of the Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Directions, 2023, rendering same invalid.
“We urge your Lordships to discountenance as well as strike out the said Final Written Address for gross non-compliance,” he added.
Alleging that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, “clearly mismanaged the election as shown by evidence,” the former VP, said the sole witness the electoral body produced before the court, admitted that the technological innovation introduced through the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, and transmission to the IReV portal, was to guarantee the transparency and integrity of the election results.
Atiku stressed that despite the innovations, INEC, through its witness, admitted that there was a “technical glitch” that made the system to fail to work.
He said the witness, who is a Director in charge of Information and Communication Technology, ICT, at the INEC, “further admitted that the Presidential and National Assembly elections were held on same day and with same BVAS machines.
“He openly admitted that at the time the result was declared on 1st March 2023, all the results had not been uploaded to the IReV.
“He was shown the European Union Observers Final Report, which was admitted as Exhibit RA6, and he read out the relevant portions indicting the conduct and outcome of the presidential election.
“It is instructive to note that despite the uniqueness of the new regime of election management, INEC failed to call even one field officer, or agent or staff, or any ward collation agent, or local government collation agent or state collation agent or poll officials, any of its numerous registration area technicians (Ractechs), or even the Presiding Officers (PO), Assistant Presiding Officer (APO 1, APO 11, APO 111) who handled the BVAS machines or who person who operated any aspect of the technological system including the IReV to give evidence or to even explain the nebulous technical glitch,” Atiku added.
Besides, he argued that President Tinubu did not call any witness in support of his claim of victory in the election, “but only one witness, a certain Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, who claimed to be practising law in the United State as well as in Nigeria and at the same time, a serving Senator, who came to speak on the qualifications of the 2nd Respondent, and admitted that the name of the 2nd Respondent is the subject of the US forfeiture judgment admitted in Court as EXHIBIT PBF1.
“He admitted that the 2nd Respondent did not score 25% of the votes cast in the FCT in the election.”
Atiku, therefore, prayed the court to declare that the return of President Tinubu as winner of the election, “was invalidated by reason of substantial non-compliance with the mandatory provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 on electronic transmission of results for collation and verification by deliberate bypass of and failure to transmit the election results electronically.”
“The Petitioners have established that the return of the 2nd Respondent as the winner of the Presidential election held on 25th day of February 2023, was unlawful and unconstitutional, having not secured one-quarter of the valid votes cast in the FCT, Abuja as required by the Constitution of the Federal of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended).
“The Petitioners have established that the 2nd Respondent was clearly disqualified under the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) to contest the Presidential election held on 25th day of February 2023, having regard to order of criminal forfeiture on him arising from drug-related offence, his declaration of allegiance to a country other than Nigeria and acquisition of citizenship of another Country, and presenting a forged certificate to the 1st Respondent.
“The Petitioners have proved that 2nd Respondent was not duly elected
by majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.
“The Respondents proffered very scanty evidence in defence, and virtually abandoned their pleadings by not calling necessary witnesses, not having any credible defence to the Petition.
“We submit with all sense of responsibility that this Nation and its Judiciary stand at the threshold of history. We submit that the fact that a presidential election has never been nullified by the Courts in Nigeria before now, is not a good reason not to do so now, as is very just to do.
“As was eloquently put by the celebrated Law Lord, Denning MR in the case of PACKER vs. PACKER (1954) AC P.15 AT 22:- ‘What is the argument on the other side? Only this, that no case has been found in which it had been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before we shall never act anywhere. The law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on and that will be bad for both.’
“May our law and our country no more stand still, while the rest of the world goes on,” the PDP candidate added in the final brief of argument he filed alongside his party.
It will be recalled that President Tinubu had earlier challenged the legal competence of Atiku’s petition which he said grossly lacked merit.
In a preliminary objection he filed before the court, Tinubu, described Atiku as a consistent serial loser that had since 1993, crisscrossed different political parties, in search of power.
He said: “The 1st petitioner (Atiku) has been consistently contesting and losing successive presidential elections in Nigeria since 1993, whether at the party primary election level or at the general election; including 1993, when he lost the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primary election to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola; 2007, when he lost the presidential election to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; 2011, when he
lost the Peoples Democratic Party presidential primary election to President Goodluck Jonathan; 2015, when he lost the APC primary election to President Muhammadu Buhari; 2019, when he lost the presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari; and now, 2023, when he has again, lost the presidential election to the respondent.
“Further to (iv) supra, it was/is not a surprise and/or not by accident that the electorate rejected the 1st petitioner at the polls of the presidential election held on 25th February, 2023”.
Insisting that he was validly returned as winner of the presidential election by INEC, Tinubu, told the court that unlike Atiku, he has been “a most consistent politician, who has not shifted political tendency and alignment.”